04 December 2008

Women like men who smell like dad

It’s true. Next time you’re wanting to impress a woman on a date, go easy on the after-shave. You stand a much better chance with your natural smell than you may realise.

It’s true. Next time you’re wanting to impress a woman on a date, go easy on the after-shave or eau de toilette – in fact, leave it altogether. You stand a much better chance with your natural smell than you may realise.

As it happens, scientists have found that women are attracted to men who smell like their father. Their study also shows why women prefer the smell of some men to others.

“Women can actually smell genetic differences,” said Dr Martha K McClintock, a co-author of a study written with lead investigator Suma Jacob and Carole Ober, a University of Chicago professor of human genetics. Their study was published in the medical journal Nature Genetics and was discussed in an article distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International

The nose knows.The researchers asked a group of 49 unmarried women of German-Austrian descent to smell 10 different scents and asked them to rate each one. The samples contained a mix of human and non-human smells like cardboard, clove, garlic and then also the t-shirts of six different men. The men in the study were from a variety of ethnic groups.

The smell they wanted to be around. The women, who did not know the source of each fragrance, were then asked to rate the smells and identify not the one they liked the most – but the one they would want to be around all the time. Dr Martha K McClintock explained, “You may love the smell of garlic, but not want to be around it 24 hours a day.”

Every woman is different. Their research showed that there was not one particular male odour that all the women preferred, but that each woman preferred the smell that was similar, though not identical to her own smell or HLA (human leukocyte antigen) gene sequence.

Genetic selection? The researchers speculated that this may have something to do with selecting a suitable mate for breeding, as having children with someone who has exactly the same genetic make-up - or a totally dissimilar genetic structure - could result in miscarriages or children suffering from various genetic disorders. This was the clearest example that the preference for certain body odours was genetically determined, said Gary Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelpia to Reuters Health.

Daddy’s girl. Interestingly enough, the women based their choices on the genes inherited from their father and not their mother. So at least in this instance, mother dearest will not play a role in her daughter’s search for a suitable mate.

(Andrea Botha)


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